Page images
PDF
EPUB

you are willing to acknowledge with Rosina that le vrai est le seul beau, I shall not object to your turning your attention to it.

.“ In the first place, can you tell me what is poetry? Try to define it." ..

Clara looked thoughtful.

“I did not expect so puzzling a question, papa," said she, at last.

“Verse! why did you not say verse?" exclaimed the little Rosina. - “What is verse, my love?” said Mr. C.

“ Poetry, papa,” continued the laughing girl.

“Poetry is verse-and verse is poetry! how very learned! how very profound!" said Clara, smiling. “But indeed, papa, I do not know that my answer will be much better than Rosina's.”

“ Think a little," said Mr. C.. “ You should accustom yourself to exercise

your thinking powers-to reason and to reflect.

“ Now tell me what is poetry.”

“I was just going to reply fiction, papa,” said Clara, after having stood in a meditating posture for some minutes ; “ but then I recollected the beautiful descriptions of real objects which are given in Cowper's Winter Morning Walk, and in his ‘Garden' as well as in our favourite · Minstrel :'-its peculiar characteristic cannot be fiction. Perhaps it may be imitation—but this cannot be its distinguishing characteristic either ; for as painting, drawing, and statuary, enable us to represent and preserve the likeness of men and things, they imitate as well as poetry :- besides, it would be equally possible to imitate the various characters and manners of different nations, and to give descriptions of natural scenery, in prose as in poetry. Poetry--is the---theI do not know what, papa."

“ The language of warm and ardent feeling or of a lively imagination, formed, generally at least, into regular numbers,” said Mr. C.

56. The historian, the orator, and the philosopher,' remarks Dr. Blair, whose excellent Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres I hope you will at no distant period read with advantage and pleasure, address themselves for the most part, primarily, to the understanding; their direct aim is to inform, to persuade, or to instruct. But the primary aim of a poet is to please and to move ; and therefore it is to the imagination and the passions that he speaks.'

“After the invention of letters and of written memorials, the genius of mankind, as might be expected, took various directions; some excelled in poet

ical and others in prosaic composition. Each of these assumed a diversity of characters according to the different subjects of information they were destined to convey. Hence we have, in prosaic writings, epistolary, descriptive, and historical compositions, as well as many other sorts ; and, in verse, epic or heroic poems, which generally relate to history, enterprise, and action ; descriptive poems or delineations of nature, character, &c., didactic or instructive poems, and pastoral, or relating to rustic life ; as well as elegiac, dramatic, and satirical poems, all of which may form a topic for some future conversation.”

“ But do you mean to imply, papa, that the origin of poetry is of the same date as the invention of letters? Letters, you know, or at least alphabetic writing, was introduced into Europe more than three thousand years ago ; you do not

RREN, surely, that poetry originated at s exrły a period as that !"

"I am aware that Cadmus, King of Thebes, is said to have invented the sixtecu letters of the Greek alphabet and to have introduced into Greece the des of alphabetic writing as much as three thousand years ago, my dear," said Mr. Ca " although the first letters are supposed to have been invented by Memuon, the Egyptian, five hundred years before that time. But why should you doubt the existence of poetry at so early a period?"

“Because, papa, you have sometimes told me that mankind are become much more generally civilized within the last few centuries than they were formerly; that they have paid more attention to the cultivation of their intellectual powers, and have devoted more time to literary pursuits, such pursuits as are the

« PreviousContinue »